Could Your Well Have Iron Problems?

If your home is serviced by well water, you may not give much thought to your water's quality or supply until you start noticing issues -- a red ring around the water line in your toilet, a slimy feel or metallic taste to the water from your tap, or even visible discoloration. These signs can all indicate that your well water has high iron content, which can lead to taste and feel problems and shorten the life of your water-using appliances. Read on to learn more about the various types of iron that can contaminate your well water, as well as your filtration and purification options. 

What type of iron contamination could you be facing? 

Because  water generally flows into the well through porous stones, it tends to have higher iron and mineral content than other water sources. In fact, iron constitutes about 5 percent of all underground rock formations, so it may make up a good proportion of the dissolved minerals in well water (which can also include calcium, magnesium, and sulfur).

Unfortunately, not all evidence of iron contamination in your well water can be readily apparent. If you have moderate to high levels of non-ferrous iron in your well, your water will remain clear even when flowing from the tap, as the iron has not yet had the opportunity to react with oxygen and turn a red hue. Unless the concentration of non-ferrous iron is extremely high, you may not notice much of a taste difference as compared to natural spring water, even if you don't notice any signs of a problem.

Non-ferrous iron that is later exposed to air, like in sinks and toilets, may leave a telltale ring after a period of time. However, if you clean (or even use) your toilets frequently, your water may not have sufficient exposure time to indicate a problem, or you may mistake these iron deposits for simple hard water stains. You may want to have your water's iron content tested to determine if your numbers are within the recommended range for your area. 

Another common well water problem is bacterial iron. When non-ferrous iron particles hit the air, they react with the oxygen naturally present in the atmosphere. This oxidation process creates a small amount of energy which can power certain types of bacteria. If bacterial iron is allowed to populate your well, it could lead to pump failure or an unpleasant smell, taste, or texture of your water.

What are the best water treatment options to remove iron?

The best way to reduce or eliminate the iron concentration in your well water often depends upon the type of iron you're battling. There are few (if any) filters that are equally effective at eliminating all types of iron and other potential impurities, so focusing your efforts on a filtration system that will handle your most pressing needs is ideal.

For non-ferrous iron, a filter that removes any iron particles (and sediment) is often sufficient to correct and prevent any further damage to your appliances. These filters often operate under reverse osmosis principles, forcing the well water through a permeable membrane that can remove any larger mineral or iron particles from the water. You'll need to change this filter occasionally for it to remain effective, but should not need to perform too much additional maintenance. 

For bacterial iron, combining non-ferrous filtration with an antimicrobial treatment (like chlorination) is usually most effective in eliminating bacteria from your well. While filtering out the non-ferrous iron particles (and therefore eliminating the oxidation process) will help prevent new bacteria, chlorine will kill any existing bacteria and help sterilize your pump and other well equipment. 

For more information, contact a local water filtration company like Bonnyville Water Conditioning